The half-million Canadians with criminal records for cannabis possession received some encouraging news today.
This morning, four Liberal cabinet ministers held a news conference to announce that the government is bringing in legislation to expedite pardons for those who were busted with amounts of 30 grams or less.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters that the intention is to remove the stigma of criminal records for simple possession, which will make it easier for people to find housing, employment, and volunteer in their community.
"As a general principle, removing the stigma of a criminal record for people who have served their sentence and then have shown themselves to be law-abiding citizens enhances public safety for all Canadians," Goodale said.
The announcement has been welcomed by the civil liberties group Cannabis Amnesty. It advocates for the elimination of criminal records for possession of weed, describing this as a "minor, non-harmful act" that as of today, is no longer a crime.
In a statement issued today, Cannabis Amnesty insisted that a fair process would include four features:
* the application for a pardon must be free;
* its effects must be immediate;
* the process must be simple;
* and it must involve the expungement or permanent deletion of records.
“Record suspensions or pardons are insufficient," Cannabis Amnesty director Annamaria Enenajor said in the statement. "They do not erase a convicted offence; they merely set it aside.
"Without expungement, individuals convicted of possession remain vulnerable to having their convictions reinstated," she continued. "The government’s openness to consider cannabis amnesty gives us hope and our discussions to date have been fruitful, but the whole point of amnesty is to permanently eliminate, rather than merely suspend, the harms that stem from a previous cannabis conviction. Only expungement accomplishes this.”
NDP justice critic Murray Rankin has already introduced a private member's bill calling for expungement of criminal records for those convicted of nonviolent possession of cannabis.
The Liberal government plans to introduce its legislation by the end of the year.